Congratulations to the following Episcopal students on their recent accomplishments! Look for updates on additional student news in future editions of Knightly News.
On Saturday, January 12th Episcopal placed 1st in Division 2 at the Catholic High Mu Alpha Theta math tournament. The tournament was attended by approximately 700 students from 32 schools. Episcopal brought 54 Middle and Upper School students to compete in subjects from Pre-Algebra to Calculus BC. Click here to read the individual results.
Lower School Battle of the Books
Congratulations to the Lower School Battle of the Books winners! Students were quizzed on Wish by Barbara O’Connor, FRAMED! by James Ponti and I Survived the Attack of the Grizzles, 1967 by Lauren Tarshis. Every student participating received a Raising Cane’s gift certificate. As a special treat, members of the six winning teams had the opportunity to travel to Raising Cane’s for a celebratory lunch together.
This year’s winners are:
Sam Huff, Aiden Grassman, Oscar Worrell
Regan Danos, Morgan Murphy, Eloise Tharp
Anne Bradley Ewing, Emma Waguespack, Marshall Elliott
Brennen Botos, Jacob Hutchison-Johnson
Diya Kankar, Sophia Fivgas, Andi Randall
Conrad Pulliam, Nate McLean, Colton Richard, William Vincent
Robards has been competing in national competitions for ten years. Her horse Cirona and trainer Janet Talmadge joined her at the recent clinic.
Congratulations to the following Episcopal faculty members.
Episcopal’s theater duo Louis and Paige Gagliano recently earned recognition in the 2018 BroadwayWorld New Orleans Awards. Paige earned Best Direction of a Play (local) for her role as the director of Theatre Baton Rouge’s Gideon’s Knot. Louis earned Best Lighting Design for his role as lighting director for Theatre Baton Rouge’s Cabaret.
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On Saturday, January 12th Episcopal placed first in Division two at the Catholic High Mu Alpha Theta math tournament. The tournament was attended by approximately 700 students from 32 schools. Episcopal brought 54 Middle and Upper School students to compete in subjects from Pre-Algebra to Calculus BC. Congratulations!
5th – Luke Stelly
4th – Akshay Basireddy
5th – Hayden Singh
Honorable Mention – Sacha Dernoncourt, Autumn Reynolds
2nd – Scott McAdams
2nd – Joy Lee
4th – Eugene Jiang
1st – Abhay Basireddy
5th – Arya Patel
Honorable Mention – KC Shimada
Honorable Mention – Mason LaFerney
1st – Arohi Gopal
2nd – Alex Nelson
3rd – Elaine Gboloo
5th – Adam Reid
6th – Andrea Norwood
1st Potpourri – Alex Nelson, Andrea Norwood, Elaine Gboloo, Arohi Gopal
1st Comprehensive Math 1.5 – Landry Litel, Nils Dernoncourt, Julia Frazer
2nd Comprehensive Math 2 – Savannah York, Laura Gboloo, Allison Binning, Arya Patel
1st Pre-Calculus Math Bowl – Abhay Basireddy, Gregory Field, KC Shimada, James Christian
2nd Middle School Interschool
Newly-Introduced Harvard Business School Curriculum Adds Spark to Episcopal History and Government Classes
If you could to take one of Harvard’s most popular Freshman-level courses at the high school level in the teaching style used at their world-renowned business school, would you? Would you be intimidated? Would you worry whether or not you’re smart enough to keep up with the pace of such a course? Or, would you dive right in? That’s precisely what many 10th and 11th grade U.S. History and U.S. Government students at Episcopal are doing this year. Mr. Vincent Hoang and I had the pleasure of attending a Harvard Business School (HBS) professional development workshop earlier this semester to learn about the materials for the course, titled “History of American Democracy.” We have been impressed with our students’ response to the course so far.
What makes the course unique, in addition to its affiliation with one of the most famous universities in the world, is the method it deploys to engage students. For over 100 years the Harvard Business School has employed the “case method” to teach its MBA students how to think through complex issues and problems. There are no textbooks. There are no lectures. Students learn by reading, thinking, and doing instead.
Before each class meeting, Harvard Business School students read through a complex 20-30 page case study on a topic like “Baria Planning Solutions, Inc.: Fixing the Sales Process” or “Bain Capital and Dollarama” before arriving in class. At the end of the case study, students are left with a cliffhanger. They know the information that confronted a corporate board or CEO in the past, but they do not know what decision(s) they made. The hook is for students to hash out what they would have done in the situation. In class, there is no lecture. There are no powerpoints or presentations. Instead, students are met by a professor and a series of blank chalkboards. The information comes from them. The teacher initially asks broad questions in a Socratic style and begins to jot down pertinent information from student responses on each board. The class meeting operates as a place to hash out the main ideas and specific details of the case study everyone read. As the discussion goes along, the questions get more specific. A large percentage of the grade each semester is based not on tests, but on meaningful class participation. While someone could sit, say nothing, and gain knowledge in these case study seminars, they would not be allowed to pass the course.
In 2013, Professor David Moss decided to try this method as an introductory-level U.S. History/Government course with Harvard undergrads. Students found the course readings and the high-level intellectual discussions they spurred quite engaging. Before long, high school teachers asked for permission to use the cases in their schools in 2014-15. Moss and the Harvard Business school began a pilot program that year with a handful of teachers. Since that time, the program has spread across the country. At the moment, 240 high school social studies teachers in 25 states and the District of Columbia are offering the course. Because of that three-day seminar experience, Mr. Hoang and I are the first two social studies teachers in the state of Louisiana to establish a partnership with the Harvard Business School that grants us full permission to use and teach the same materials used in the school’s “History of American Democracy” course. After only one semester, Episcopal’s students have shown that they are up to the task.
In my AP U.S. History course, students read and annotated “James Madison, the “Federal Negative,” and the Making of the U.S. Constitution (1787)” last semester. After spending two days discussing the Constitution and the ideas of the Founding Fathers such as the desirable size and scope of the federal government and the crises that necessitated a new Constitution after the American Revolution, students showed a meaningful, lasting grasp of the era’s issues. While many 10th and 11th grade students might be anxious about reading a complex document written at a level for a Harvard freshman, Episcopal AP students performed well. Not only did they hit the same points that Harvard students in Moss’s course typically hit, the connections from the class discussions carried over to their performance on tests and quizzes.
Because of this early success, we assigned case studies to students to discuss as soon as the second semester got underway. Rather than the typical Christmas break work I would normally assign to AP students, students were asked to read and annotate a case study on Reconstruction and the Compromise of 1877 which they discussed this week. Honors students began the second semester by reading about Lincoln’s difficult decision of whether or not to resupply Fort Sumter, which ultimately led to the Civil War. Finally, our U.S. government students will discuss the role of political parties to begin the semester by reading and debating about the strengths and weaknesses of California’s decision to move toward a secret ballot as opposed to public voting in the 1890s.
Dr. Billy Pritchard
Dr. Billy Pritchard is a native of Winn Parish, Louisiana. He and his wife, Lisa, came to Episcopal in 2015 after spending the previous decade in Buffalo, New York. Dr. Pritchard is a 1999 graduate of the Louisiana School of Math, Science, and the Arts. In addition, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Centenary College of Louisiana, a master’s degree from Ole Miss and doctorate from SUNY-Buffalo. Dr. Pritchard teaches U.S. History, Honors AP U.S. History, American Presidency and the Civil Rights Movement.
For the first time in a number of years, the annual Youth Legislature Conference moved to the Louisiana Legislature’s new capitol building for the Friday session. Students had a chance to debate bills from the desks of State Representatives and State Senators, giving them a first-hand experience with democracy in action. Episcopal students had several opportunities to participate in the process. Below are a few highlights.
Junior Jack Campbell chaired a House committee on the first night of the conference, helping to manage debate on bills covering a variety of topics. Sophomores Matthew Bickham and Gregory Field vigorously defended their bill before the State Supreme Court when it was challenged for violating the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause.
On the final day’s plenary session, which combined both the Senate and House chambers, Episcopal students energetically debated a number of bills. Hudson Graham, Sean Brooks, Jack Campbell, Adam Azmeh, Robert Xing, Gregory Field and Matthew Bickham all spoke before the joint session that included several hundred students from throughout Louisiana.
Each student was required to submit an original bill and presented these in committee on Thursday. The delegation included ninth graders Catherine Barney and Ellie Williams, sophomores Natalie Macaluso, Abhay Basireddy, Robert Xing, Gregory Field, Adam Azmeh, Tucker Harrell, Matthew Bickham, juniors Ryan Whaley, Hudson Graham, Joseph Patterson, Jack Campbell, and Sean Brooks, and seniors Alyssa Macaluso and Austin Broussard.
This was the third year Episcopal sent a group to the Youth Legislature conference, and participation has grown from an initial group of five in 2016 to sixteen this year. In February, Episcopal will send a delegation to the state Model United Nations Conference, which is organized by the same YMCA branch that organized the Youth Legislature conference. One of this year’s Youth Leg participants, twelfth grader Alyssa Macaluso will be serving as President of the General Assembly at the Model United Nations conference in February.
43 – Number of full bins of recyclable materials collected
2,000 – Number of gallons in 43 bins
4 – Number of weeks in which the recycling push was underway
9 – Number of Episcopal seniors in Emily Beckwith’s Environmental Science class volunteering to lead recycling efforts
1 – Teacher who challenged her students to establish a recycling program in Upper School
Students in Emily Beckwith’s Environmental Science class are doing their part for the environment. While classroom lessons focus on the importance of a healthy ecosystem, outside of the classroom students are taking action to protect those systems. Nine students from the class volunteered to create recycling bins for every classroom in the Academic Commons and Perkins Hall. While the students were initially focusing on these two buildings with one weekly pick up, the project quickly expanded.
Recently, the students organized a four-week, campus-wide recycling effort as part of the City-Parish Department of Environmental Services school recycling challenge. Students collected recyclable materials from every building and every department on Tuesday and Friday afternoons. In just those short four weeks, the Episcopal community collected 43 bins or 2,000 gallons of recyclable materials.
“My whole goal in environmental science is to get them thinking about the world outside and their footprint. For example, is their footprint large and can they shrink it?” says Beckwith. After only one semester, the project has gained traction with more and more items placed in the bins each week. For Episcopal senior Lauren Reed the recycling experience has made a lasting impression.
Reed, a self-professed animal lover, says the importance of the project truly hit home when Mrs. Beckwith had the class watch a documentary on water and the bottling process. “I realized the bottles impact wildlife and oceans,” says Reed. Before volunteering for the recycling project, Reed says she had a basic awareness of the recycling process, but the entire experience has helped her understand why recycling is important. Now she hopes the project inspires her classmates to do their part as well.
Beckwith hopes the recycling efforts will continue to grow throughout the year. She says the project is a great opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience with a classroom topic. As an added bonus, the student organizers are earning community service hours for their participation.
Protecting the environment and caring for the natural world are common themes in an Episcopal education. Students learn about everything from water conservation to landforms and erosion. The school’s new Quest for Peace Program highlights the importance of the environment in relation to human existence on planet earth. The new recycling effort is a meaningful way for students to have a positive impact on the topics they study in class.
Neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor hail, nor even mud could deter them. No, we’re not talking about the post office. We’re talking about members of the Episcopal cross country team. At one of the muddiest, wettest and coldest state championship meets in recent memory, the boys continued their streak by earning their 23rd straight state championship title. The Episcopal girls also came home with a state title of their own. To accomplish this, both squads had to face unpleasantness on the course.
Head Coach Claney Duplechin says in 35 years of coaching cross country he and his teams have faced seven or eight meets with very bad conditions, but nothing to the degree of what the teams faced on November 12th in Natchitoches. There was mud – deep, wet mud that refused to let go of the runners’ legs as they took each stride. It was cold – very cold, in the forties in Louisiana, cold. However, the Knights were undeterred. In fact, Coach Dupe says such conditions are actually ideal for his team. He says regardless of weather conditions practice must go on. “We’re running no matter what,” says Coach Dupe, emphasizing that sticking with a strict schedule allows the team to catch up, and eventually surpass, competitors.
The mud wasn’t the only thing that made the 2018 state meet special. The Episcopal girls went into the contest ranked behind a Menard team that defeated contenders by 100 points in late October. However, the Knights worked hard and believed they could finish strong. And they did, beating Menard by six points and bringing the title home. “That was one of my most enjoyable coaching times,” says Coach Dupe. He says there were happy tears among the runners as the boys and girls celebrated as one team - both champions. As Coach Dupe reflects on the long hours and hard work put in by the girls to make their dream a reality, he realizes that this muddy victory truly was special. “It’s just so fun when good people do win,” he says.
Coach Dupe says in the end it won’t be the winning that the athletes remember. “Getting to the winning – working hard to reach a goal,” are what Coach says will matter in the long run. That, and the friendships forged as they trudged through the mud and celebrated each other’s triumphs.
Congratulations 2018 Episcopal Cross Country team!
Go Knights! Good People! Have Fun! State Champs!
The tens digit of a two-digit number exceeds its units digit by 4. The number exceeds twice the number obtained by reversing the digits of the original number by 10. What is the original number?
Math. Just the word alone can either cause your heart to flutter with excitement or drop with disdain. For members of Episcopal’s Middle School Math team and Upper School’s Mu Alpha Theta, hearts are certainly aflutter with excitement when they see an equation. In speaking with Upper School math teacher Joan Moroney it is obvious that she is also a fan of formulas. Recently, Moroney and her colleagues, along with the Mu Alpha Theta team organized the third annual Episcopal math tournament. Here’s a look at the numbers behind accomplishing such a task:
Another of the organizers’ goals was to include Middle School mathletes. Moroney says this early exposure to the excitement of a math tournament gets Middle School students more interested in math and in becoming a part of their school’s high school math community. “Freshmen can be scared to join Mu Alpha Theta, but having Middle School experience creates a seamless transition,” Moroney says.
Members of Mu Alpha Theta were a critical component of the tournament’s success. Students oversaw the event the day of competition by doing everything from proctoring tests and setting up for participants, to running the sound system and grading exams. Mu Alpha Theta President Judie Williams says the entire experience was eye-opening. “Organizing the Mu Alpha Theta tournament showed me how much goes into these tournaments, because I have been to countless tournaments without realizing all the work that goes into them so it has definitely given me more of an appreciation for the club.”
Why are students volunteering to take math tests on a weekend? Moroney says the events are an exciting social affair for most competitors. She says students enjoy the occasions because they are traditionally low stress opportunities to be with friends and they truly enjoy doing math and solving a problem to get an answer. “When they do well, there’s a sense of accomplishment,” she says.
Already this year, the Episcopal competitors have certainly accomplished a lot. The Middle and Upper School teams placed second overall in Division 2 at the St. Paul math tournament and second overall in the Ben Franklin tournament. While the Upper School team did not compete in their own tournament, the Middle School team placed third overall on the Interschool Test.
Students, like Williams and others, truly enjoy the team math experience. “Mu Alpha Theta was the first academic extracurricular that I participated in, and I remember thinking that it was going to be a very competitive club and only the best of the best could join,” she says. “However, I quickly realized that I was completely wrong because the club allows for students to improve their math skills in a more laid back environment that is really fun.”
A math tournament certainly is not your typical math class test. Moroney says there are 15 fast-paced, two-minute rounds of ciphering in which students solve a problem each round. As an added bonus, if they complete the problems in one minute they earn double the points. During the interschool testing round, the entire school divides a test among the students and they have 45 minutes to solve approximately 25 problems. Moroney says this is where things really get exciting. There is a chaotic energy as students rush to divide up problems and work together for answers. Students self-organize with one team member recording answers while others feverishly work problems. There are no calculators and only scratch paper is available.
Moroney says the typical math club participant is a well-rounded student who wants to cultivate their math skills and have a good time. She says the Mu Alpha Theta roster includes football players, cheerleaders, artists and more. It is a great example of students with diverse talents finding the right place to explore them further.
Need another reason to consider being a mathlete? Consider this. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in math occupations is projected to grow 28% between 2016 and 2026, which is much faster than the average, and will result in approximately 50,400 new jobs. The BLS also says math occupations are typically higher paying. Participating in math tournaments could help a student discover a natural interest or talent in the subject and while not every mathlete aspires to be a mathematician, developing this skill set will serve them well regardless of their long-term plans.
Making a difference with math!
As a result of the Episcopal tournament success, Mu Alpha Theta will be making a $500 donation to the Baton Rouge Food Bank with the money raised.
Want to test your own math skills? Submit your answer to the problem at the beginning of this article in the comment section below.
Working and Saving. Dorm room cooking. Dorm/Apartment Safety.
These are just a few of the life skills Episcopal faculty are passing on to this year’s graduating seniors as part of the College Block experience.
College Block is a weekly time slot set aside for Upper School students to prepare for college admission. Students in ninth through eleventh grades focus on test prep and college readiness skills. Using materials provided by MasteryPrep, Upper School faculty members teach lessons in ACT prep, while Episcopal counselors lead sessions on college admission and readiness. Students also have the opportunity to take timed practice tests, watch test prep videos, and participate in test prep boot camps. Dr. Alan Newton, College Block Coordinator, is thrilled to have the entire Upper School faculty involved in this program. "When our students see that their teachers are willing to put forth extra time and effort to teach lessons and lead sessions, this reinforces Episcopal's commitment to successful college admissions," he says.
College Block test prep is comprehensive and students are seeing great results. To read more about Episcopal’s successful college test prep click here.
Building upon this success, College Counseling Director Justin Fenske and his team had a different vision for the senior year of College Block. With college early decisions announced in the late fall, many seniors are nearing the end of their admissions journey. Now that students have narrowed their college choices, the process transforms to one of preparation for life. With this in mind, the senior College Block idea was born.
The college counseling team solicited their colleagues for suggestions on skills that would help students easily make the transition to life on their own. Fenske says faculty members enthusiastically responded with a range of ideas and suggestions. “The faculty viewed this as an opportunity to ensure that our students were fully prepared for life after graduation. We hope students gain life skills and take something from their teachers that wasn’t from class,” says Fenske.
One recommendation came from Thesis Director Katie Sutcliffe who suggested a presentation on dorm room cooking. In her presentation, Sutcliffe offered tips on affordable, healthy and easy cooking options. Sutcliffe not only guided students through the process of preparing no-bake energy bites, but she also provided them with supply lists and shopping tips. In another recent presentation, Upper School art teacher Kate Trepagnier offered students stress relief tips from an artistic standpoint. Trepagnier walked students through stretches and exercises to help them relax after a long day of studying. In addition, she demonstrated how creating art, and even doodling, can aid relaxation.
Senior College Block topics vary widely. Over the course of the year, faculty members will offer advice on everything from how to jump start a car to how to determine whether studying abroad is a valuable option. The presentations are interactive and engaging, with topics that resonate with a range of audiences.
It is widely known that Episcopal’s approach to college preparation is working, with students gaining admission to highly-selective institutions, scoring in the top ranks on admissions tests and earning National Merit recognition. This new approach to the College Block experience is a complementary, meaningful commitment to educating the whole child.
A frequent topic for both students and educators is the significance and purpose of one's time in school and the impact education will have later on in life. Teachers often remind us of the benefits of a well-rounded education and how no learning opportunity should be wasted. While the benefits of learning subjects that may or may not be used in one's future career varies from student to student, the impacts of subverting the learning process for the sake of ease have significant consequences. Unfortunately, students might find themselves tempted to cheat as a result of not seeing the value in their education, and the rate at which students cheat on average around the country can be disheartening.
Academic dishonesty can occur when students fail to see inherent value in their educational process and when students have a less sophisticated or developed moral compass. The good news is that schools can foster this moral development and encourage intrinsic motivation every single day, and this happens here at Episcopal.
Scholars Christopher Qualls, Lafe Figgars and Danette Gibbs found that as many as eight in ten college students self-report cheating, according to their paper in The College Student Journal. Liora Schmelkin, a professor at Hofstra University, has conducted research indicating that around seventy percent of high school students cheat. Most shocking of all these statistics comes from a professor of medicine at the University of Zagreb in Croatia. Taradi found through numerous surveys that a whopping ninety-seven percent of those medical students surveyed have cheated during medical school. Students who will go on to hold people's lives in their hands and even those educated at the most selective universities can shortchange their education. Further, the negative impacts of people in important careers who cut corners don't start and stop with those in the medical field.
Similarly, business schools are sometimes plagued by a lack of academic integrity. Assistant professor of business at William Woods University, Stephen Forsha, has not only found that business schools have high rates of academically dishonest students but also a set of students who tolerate academic dishonesty more than others at different institutions. In recent years, insider trading scandals have shaken the business world and have been the catalyst for large amounts of public discourse on corruption from major companies. These scandals have also cost innocent people millions and resulted in huge numbers of lost jobs. Many corrupt corporate executives behind these scandals attended prestigious undergraduate and graduate schools with a focus in business. Many have another thing in common that makes academic dishonesty a very important issue.
The biggest reason students are academically dishonest is that they lack fully-developed moral development. Moral development is a psychological theory founded by late psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg, which quantifies the levels of moral reasoning that guide a person’s actions. The lower levels of moral reasoning relate to self-interest and are (supposed to be) mostly exhibited by younger children. The intermediate level has to do with social conformity, and most teens function at this level (ideally). Fully functioning, well-developed adults are supposed to function at the highest level, which has to do with principles and ethics that do not sway in the face of societal pressure. Kohlberg’s theory was made with the assumption that most people function at a level of moral development that is appropriate for their age, but in real life this isn’t always true. This is where the problem with academic dishonesty becomes obvious. It has been found by the previously mentioned Stephen Forsha that business students display levels of moral development commonly displayed by young children and make arguments relating to ethics that are directly related to their own self-interest. Putting people with the same amount of moral development as children in positions of massive power and wealth is bound to lead to all sorts of problems, and of course it has with all of the previously mentioned examples of business scandals.
But, this does not have to be reality. Lynn Aaron and Catherine Roche, two academics published in the Journal of Educational Technology Systems, have found that academic dishonesty rates have risen tremendously from 1988 to 2008. This coincides with schools becoming more focused on performance and less focused on ensuring students are good citizens and human beings. Around 1988, schools stopped making character education mandatory, and academic dishonesty rates rose as a result. If the world wants to make sure students value being a good person and approach their lives with the same ethical attitudes across all of their endeavors, then schools need to return to focus on having conversations about ethics.
When all my research was said and done, I reflected on my time at Episcopal and realized several things. The first was about how lucky I was to be a member of the Episcopal community, and how much our school truly cared about its community. This included the honor code and our school’s mission to make students become good people who go on to lead purposeful lives. It made me feel lucky to be so involved in a true preparatory school: one that is not only concerned with producing good students and workers but good people as well. Episcopal has achieved this goal in every avenue I’ve witnessed. This truly hit me when members of the honor council at Washington and Lee University came to discuss our school’s honor system with us, and our entire discussion group revolved around trying to make our school’s system of integrity better. It became clear that we have succeeded in our mission and that Episcopal helps encourage students who are willing to speak about things they thought were wrong and try to make what they were passionate about better.
Ben Levine is a senior at the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge, and has attended the school since the 4th grade. He was inspired to join Thesis for the opportunity to hone his writing and speaking skills, and also to share something that excites him with other people. Outside of school, he has been an active member of a year round swim team and was runner up at the state meet his junior year of high school.
“You’re a Facebook famous puppy,” my family friend said in an excited, smiling tone as she reached out to pet my dog. This was the first reaction when Bailey walked in to a meeting I was attending.
My dad’s Facebook profile overflows with pictures of a short, long haired and tan dog with white spots and the fluffiest white tail you can imagine. Bailey, our flood-rescue dog, has the face of a chihuahua and the body of a papillon. If you examined my dad’s profile page even a little, it would be hard to believe Bailey wasn’t the only member of the Solomon family. There is no way to really know our family without knowing Bailey. Along with pictures of her sitting on his office chair or posing with pumpkins for fall, you can find pictures of her visiting with her fans: people who love to be visited by this happy pup and request her presence.
Aside from her modeling “career,” Bailey and my dad, Jim Solomon, are a registered therapy dog team through Tiger HATS LSU. In the midst of the Louisiana floods of 2016, this lost dog followed my dad through the streets near a home he was helping to fix. After searching for her home and not having any success, he soon adopted her, and began to realize how even-tempered she was. Having just moved from Newtown, CT, Jim had experienced therapy dogs himself after the Sandy Hook tragedy, and Bailey reminded him of the positive impact they had on him. He wanted to find a way to share her sweetness with others.
In “The Effect of Therapy Dogs on Children in a Learning Environment,” Kimberly Ann Scheckler defines a therapy dog as “a dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, people with learning difficulties, and stressful situations, such as disaster areas.” These dogs are trained and evaluated through many organizations such as Love on a Leash, Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs, and The Delta Society Pet Partners. Screening and examining of the owner/handler is also performed through these individual groups.
Therapy dogs are used for animal assisted therapy, which means they comfort anyone through petting or just viewing, and they have been found to have many positive benefits. Just a few of these benefits are outlined by Christine Cochran of Roxy Therapy Dogs. In just “15 minutes of petting a dog: blood pressure drops 10%; serotonin rises (relaxation); cortisol decreases (bad mood); dopamine increases (depression fighting); and anxiety is reduced.” There are many physical benefits to visiting with a therapy dog in a short amount of time. Adolescents, and those who parent or work with them, are no strangers to the challenges that can pop up during this critical time in our development. Stress and pressure is inevitable. But, sometimes, more serious obstacles like depression and anxiety can affect an adolescents’ schooling experience.
Helping with obstacles such as these, dogs can also provide a sense of belonging, as Mary Louise O’Brien states in her article “Pets as Counselors.” She notices that dogs will “love you (unconditionally) just the way you are.” There is no need to impress a dog or to feel judged because they have no way to process it. It also becomes easy to trust them, as they are incapable of repeating your information.
To utilize the positive effects of therapy dogs, Tiger HATS facilitates a program in the Baton Rouge community. The organization holds classes to allow dog owners and their pets to learn more about becoming a team through the organization Pet Partners International. The duo must then pass a series of exams to become certified and gain an insurance coverage policy. After this, the teams will be sent out to locations around Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to visit locations and bring joy to difficult situations. One of Bailey’s most visited places is the Our Lady of the Lake Hospital, where she gets to cheer up patients who are recovering or families of loved ones in a state of emergency.
After seeing the impact the two made on others, I decided to become a registered therapy dog team with Bailey. I now get to take her to the Parker House, a “Therapeutic Group Home in Louisiana for children ages 3-13 who… have been diagnosed with a severe behavioral disorder or a mental illness,” according to Volunteers of America. I get to introduce her to kids who seek comfort and share funny stories about her to gift them with a moment of peace in the midst of their chaos. In just the two visits I’ve had at the house, I’ve seen the difference therapy dogs make in these children’s lives. Their eyes light up, and they become ecstatic when they get to walk or hug her. Bailey becomes their own piece of joy in the moment, and they become disappointed when she has to leave, but they hold on to the hope that they’ll see her, along with the other dogs who visit, again the next month.
Audrey Hendler, the founder of a therapy dog program in New York City, A Fair Shake for Youth, visits students alongside dogs to teach them about empathy. She found that the middle schoolers she reached out to gained empathy and confidence as they realized the dogs were relating and listening to them. She also noticed that “Having an adult tell them they’ll be back next week and then showing up is a big deal to these kids… [because] adults aren’t always a consistent part of their life.” Not only does this example show the joy dogs can bring, but it can relate to the sense of trust the kids at the Parker House begin to experience.
I began to realize that if registered therapy dogs are this beneficial, why don’t we see them utilized more often and in different environments? I think they should become a new norm. I’d like to see them more often roaming hallways in schools or even in other environments that may cause stress, such as an airport or a mall. When looking at schools, it’s important that these places of education are open to trying out new things, and Episcopal has proven this is possible. Bailey has made appearances here at Episcopal for educational purposes and has been welcomed happily by the counseling staff and administration. With clear benefits and insurance fighting against potential drawbacks, there is little to no room left to argue against the implementation of therapy dogs. Just a moment of petting these sweet creatures can bring a great amount of relief, and I’d love to share that with others, as I know the feeling myself.
This idea of therapy dogs being used in schools were first introduced to me after the Sandy Hook tragedy when they helped me and my classmates in the search for comfort. To learn more about this experience that lead to my research, click here.
Ashley Solomon has been a student at the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge since her sophomore year and is an Honors Diploma candidate. In addition to her involvement in the Thesis program, she participates in cross country, Mock Trial, and is the community service coordinator for the National Honors Society. Her thesis explores the importance of mental health in adolescents and the effects of implementing therapy dogs in a school setting.